Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tracking Student Behavior in a Non-Threatening Way

I've recently read the Kindle version of Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School, by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. (Thank you for the free copy, A.J. Juliani, Mark and Jennifer!) There are ten ideas in this book that many people can implement fairly quickly. I feel as if I've already tapped into many of them, so I'm writing about a new one (to me) that I had to run with right away.

I wanted to begin the idea of "Track Records" the minute I read about them. (I actually DID implement them the very next week!)

Background information... There are times when I KNOW - for SURE - that (we'll call her) Glinda was speaking the ENTIRE period with her friends. I know that on the days I am having a hard time, she must be speaking even MORE with her friends. I know I have biases, and I've always wondered how I could keep track of this - to see if it was really happening.

Another idea I've implemented the past two years is good emails home to parents. Sometimes it's easy to find something students do that make your (or another student's) day. Other times it's difficult to remember what happened in class once the students leave the room.

The idea of "Track Records" caught my eye. I created one, then another, and then tweaked it again. Finally, I settled on the format shown here. Behaviors that are distracting (or pet peeves, perhaps) can go on the left side of each day, and the positives can go on the right. I had my math brain going when I thought this - as on a graph, the left of the y axis is negative, and to the right is positive. I also created codes for certain behaviors. Here's what my own track records look like (this month - nothing is constant when you are reflective):

Click on this link to see the codes, then make a copy of the document to edit your own version.

This chart could also include tardy to class and late or missing work. These are behaviors that do NOT belong in a student's grade. Grades are meant to reflect achievement, not behavior.

Instead of shaming students...
     You can pull up their track record. You can see just how many times Glinda really is speaking when she should be listening. You can quietly pull the student aside and explain to him or her what you notice. Perhaps certain days are tougher on you (or her), and you can have this conversation about the data - not necessarily about the student. There is no need to shame students by pointing out disruptive behaviors in front of the class.

Celebrate successes...
     You can see who really contributes to class, and who you can rely on for their energy or optimism. Maybe one student has a TON of energy, and it can be redirected to help the class instead of hinder it. Use the chart to make sure you get in that positive word to students every day. Use it to send home positive notes to parents on the weekends. Use it to show students you CARE.

Great reflection and transparency...
     Try not to make this a surprise to students. Let them know that you keep track of behaviors - not to judge, but to have further conversations. We are all human, and we are all growing. Reflection is a huge part of this simple chart. This chart allows for the conversation to happen.

8/2/17 Added on to this post... I just caught this blog post from Jennie Tidwell... Maybe a Google Form would work better than paper on a clipboard??

8/3/17 Added this video to explain this idea in a video to @SFecich to her adult students...
It eludes to another post as well - Have the Discussion.


  1. Joy,
    Thanks so much for sharing! I haven't read the Hacking Education book yet, but it's on my wish list.

    I love this idea, and as always, you are so giving. I love how you make your thinking and revising visible, but also how you share your work for others to modify. I will definitely be using this tracking record idea as well.

    Thanks so much, friend!

  2. This IS great! Would love to see how you use Google Sheets to analyse the data at the end of a week.

    1. Hello! I enter narrative feedback into the online gradebook (no grade attached) when I need. Otherwise, I use these as a springboard to discuss with students (or email home when it's great news). :)